Morris Graves

Spring with Machine Age Noise No. 1


Tempera and ink on paper
Support: 673 x 1368 mm
Presented by Sir Robert Adeane through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962

Catalogue entry

Morris Graves born 1910

T00520 Spring with Machine Age Noise No. 1 1957

Inscribed 'Graves 57' b.r.
Sumi ink and tempera on paper, 26 1/2 x 53 7/8 (67. 5 x 137)
Presented by Sir Robert Adeane through the American Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962
Prov: Sir Robert Adeane, London (purchased from the artist through the Willard Gallery)
Exh: Graves, Willard Gallery, New York, December 1959 (works not listed, repr.)
Lit: John Cage, The Drawings of Morris Graves (New York 1974), pp.128 and 130
Repr: The Friends of the Tate Gallery Annual Report 1961-62 (London 1962), between pp.12 and 13

On returning to his forest home at Woodway near Seattle at the end of 1956 after two years in a remote part of Ireland, Graves was distressed to find that the peacefulness of the scene was now disturbed by the roar of jet aeroplanes passing overhead; and this prompted him to paint a series of pictures like this one in which the pastoral freshness of nature was contrasted with the shattering vibrations of 'machine age noise'. This work was one of the first of the series.

'The noise paintings were spat out', he wrote. 'They were painted in a state of anguish and grinding of teeth and defeat. They were painted as I fled from my stronghold in Woodway. I am not a nomad loving continuous change of scene. A private walled garden with the sounds of nature means much to me - it is my major nourishment from the outside world and regardless of how others may see it I was driven out of Woodway by machine noise -

'As I was angrily giving up I spread a few sheets of Chinese paper on the floor to make some notations about "noise" for myself. Notations to which I would add the essential contemplation before I could communicate this kind of outcry against the noise to others. As I fled my chief thought was: I will retreat and paint something about the outrageous machine-age noise when I am not angry.

'The idea in the paintings was that since the beginning of man's history he has lived in nature with only an infinitesimal amount of his own discordance marring the scene but suddenly in our time man has been able to change these proportions grotesquely and tragically. There is a strip at the bottom of some of the paintings with a little indication of the movement of spring but the rest of the painting is given over to noise - discordance - nature violated - aggressive machine noise.' (This passage is taken from a letter written from Dublin in October 1959 and published in the catalogue of his exhibition at the Willard Gallery).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.333-4, reproduced p.333